Could an outlier in one profession become an outlier in another field too?
Alternately, could greatness in one field be a guarantee for success in another domain?
Sachin Tendulkar, GR Vishwanath, Salim Durrani, BS Chandrasekhar and Tiger Pataudi, among many others, are cricketing greats without doubt. But would they have become towering office-bearers of the hugely diverse and extremely challenging Board of Control for Cricket in India?
The implementation of Lodha reforms was the most significant cricketing event last year. Nonetheless it was not a surprise when Sourav Ganguly-headed BCCI’s Annual General Meeting approached Supreme Court to seek relaxation of certain clauses in the reforms. It believed these clauses had the potential to impact short-term and long-term development of Indian cricket.
Verily the challenge of becoming an effective BCCI president and even secretary calls for rare skills in managing factors as diverse as handling cricket and non-cricketing issues of 38 disparate units, real-time issues involving various men’s and women’s national teams, National Cricket Academy, stadia, grounds, coaches, allied cricket activities; forging unity among Asian cricket associations; guarding BCCI assets and interests from ICC; promoting and protecting BCCI interests in India and overseas; media rights, etc.
These are humongous responsibilities. But Lodha believed through his reforms ‘retired players will have their say in cricket administration, in policy formation in BCCI and IPL. Good erstwhile players will help in building the BCCI strong.’
Without doubt there is plenty to be said in favour of subject matter expertise, especially in administration. But, as in playing the game of cricket so too in administration, ‘practice is not the thing you do once you are good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.’
Paradoxically, as per Lodha, just as a cricketer (administrator) has put in six years of practise at State administration, and has become good enough to take this acquired expertise to the Board level, he has to mandatorily ‘cool-off’.
Last month the Ganguly-led Board in its first AGM after the Lodha reforms were implemented, wanted this cooling off period to be done away with. Two of them in particular, the president, Ganguly and secretary, Jay Shah, had packed a little more than five years as their respective state unit office-bearers and their three-year cooling-off period would have to kick mid-way through this year.
The AGM’s move to set aside the cooling-off period and other changes (diluting conflict of interest clause, more power to Board secretary, etc) was termed ‘very unfortunate’ by Lodha. In an interview to a national daily he said that he ‘thought a cricketer at the helm of affairs will understand that it was only our reforms which brought him to this position. If the earlier system was in vogue, perhaps no cricketer could have ever dreamt of heading a body like the BCCI.’
The ‘unfortunate’ thing, however, is not the AGM wanting to make changes, but instead, because of their background, training or lack of exposure to administration, only very few cricketers – maybe Ganguly and Brijesh Patel are the current exceptions – are actually primed for administration.
The uncomfortable truth is that becoming a very successful Indian cricket team member –an outlier –could actually disqualify players from administration!
In fact almost all the current Indian team players, from skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya to Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav to Jasprit Bumrah could be termed an outlier.
Malcolm Gladwell who wrote the massively impactful book Outliers: The Story of Success insists that ‘an outlier is a truly exceptional individual who, in his or her field of expertise, is so superior that he defines his own category of success.’
Gladwell believed that 10,000 hours (of practise) was the magic number to success and becoming an outlier. This 10,000-hour rule (practicing 20 hours per week for 10 years to master a skill) has been disputed by some experts. But nobody has doubted that extreme hours of practise is key to acquiring and mastering a skill, in cricket too.
Yes, normal folks play cricket and go back to their routine in life; but not these outliers. They put in thousands of hours in practising a skill from a very tender age that there is hardly any scope to learn, hone and excel in many normal childhood, teenage and adulthood activities.
Thus an outlier, like our best cricket stars, lies far outside the normal range.
That being the case, how can these cricketing greats have the varied skills and expertise needed to manage an organisation with complex issues?
Sure, it would be ideal to have a cricketer like Ganguly to head BCCI. But could that be the norm? Could a cricketing outlier who got there sacrificing many things, including normal schooling, childhood and bonding suddenly excel in situational, dynamic and man management issues?
Ganguly’s plea against cooling-off, which may seem self-serving, deserves to be seen in the larger picture. Indian cricket is not just in a state of flux; it has plenty to lose.
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